About the Rule of Law Forum

The Eighth Regional Rule of Law Forum for South-East Europe, hosted by the AIRE Centre and Civil Rights Defenders, took place on 3 and 4 September 2021.

The Forum consisted of a central conference in Dubrovnik, bringing together the President of the European Court of Human Rights Robert Spano, judges and former judges of the European Court of Human Rights and the former Director and Secretary of the Council of Europe Venice Commission. Over 120 representatives from across the region met at national working hubs in Belgrade, Podgorica, Pristina, Sarajevo, Skopje, Tirana and Zagreb, where attendees included presidents and judges of supreme and constitutional courts, ombudspersons, government agents before the Strasbourg Court, representatives of judicial centres/academies, representatives of NGOs, and prominent legal experts from the region.

  The Forum was supported by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, UK Government and the Government of Sweden.

 Independence and Impartiality of the Judiciary 

 The topic for this year’s Forum was “independence and impartiality of the judiciary“.  

 Understanding and implementing the requirements of the right to a hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law under Article 6 ECHR are two essential aspects of efforts to strengthen the rule of law across the Western Balkans. 

President Spano’s opening address underlined the vitality of this principle, whilst warning of the current threats posed to independence and impartiality of the judiciary across Europe.

During three panel discussions judges and former judges of the ECtHR:

  • Distilled the key principles and requirements developed by the ECtHR in respect of the right to a hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law, taking account of the very latest developments of the Court.
  • Examined the interrelationship between the right to an independent and impartial judiciary under Article 6 and protection of the rights under all other Articles of the Convention.
  • Advised on key practical measures to safeguard independence and impartiality. 

Participants further benefitted from a presentation by Thomas Markert, former Director and Secretary of the Council of Europe Venice Commission, on the role of the Venice Commission in safeguarding judicial independence. 

The Forum was, as always, an interactive event, with participants across the region connected via video link. Each presentation was therefore followed by a rich discussion between the national and central hubs on how to apply and implement the principles elucidated in the panel discussions in the particular context of the countries of the region. Participants reflected on some of the key challenges to safeguarding independence and impartiality in the region as well as some of the most effective, practical ways to try to overcome such challenges.


Welcome and introduction to the Forum

Speaker: Biljana Braithwaite, Western Balkans Programme Director, the AIRE Centre

The Rule of Law under Pressure – Reflections on the Independence and Impartiality of the Judiciary

Speaker: Robert Spano, President of the European Court of Human Rights

Closing Remarks

Conclusions from the Forum presented by Biljana Braithwaite and Goran Miletić.




The Rule of Law Platform for Western Balkans provides comprehensive insight into the rule of law and protection of individual rights in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.